Old Bear sets career finish line

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:51 AM ET

LONDON - The Old Bear is the Brier's new centurion.

Kevin Martin won his 99th and 100th Brier games here Sunday, then used the occasion to announce that he will call it a career after the Sochi 2014 Olympic year.

Martin, who says he never looks at the statistics, claimed he didn't know it was win No. 100.

“There's always something you guys are digging up,” he said.

And he said he can't remember who he beat for win No. 1 way back in 1991.

“No idea about the first one but I bet I was nervous,” he said.

For historical purposes, win No. 100 came against Jim Cotter of B.C., an over-in-seven-ends 8-2 laugher here Sunday afternoon for his record 29th consecutive Brier win to escape opening weekend with a 3-0 record in his attempt to become the first skip in history to win five Briers.

In the sixth end, third John Morris shouted to him after a miss “Geez, give it to your sweepers. Worst shot ever!”

Martin laughed at that and agreed with him.

But all that will be forgotten, just like Martin forgot his first win.

And, again for the record, if he was nervous in his first game in his first Brier it sure didn't last long.

It was a 9-1 win over Chuck Haines of the Territories in the 1991 Brier in Hamilton in which he went 8-3 in the round robin and won both playoff games, including the final over Randy Woytowich of Saskatchewan.

Martin says he's just not paying attention to the record or history books.

He did figure Russ Howard, who was in the broadcast booth calling a different game on TSN, holds the record for most Brier wins as a skip and even made a good, although not correct, guess of what the number might be.

Howard won 113 in his record 14 Brier appearances.

This is Martin's 11th Brier.

“Think about that,” teammate Marc Kennedy said.

“That's a lot of consistency. If he's got 100 wins and is in his 11th Brier, that's almost 10 wins a Brier.

“There's a pretty good chance he's going to keep getting them,” said Jules Owchar, his coach of 26 years.

Howard is likely going to witness Martin breaking it before he's done, perhaps as soon as next year in Saskatoon.

“I'm not done yet. I don't plan on retiring for a few years,” said the 44-year-old Saville Centre skip, who went undefeated at the Olympics and is 20-0 at the provincials with his team of Morris, Kennedy and Ben Hebert.

“I don't really want this to be my last Brier, although I'm sure Kevin Koe is hoping that might be the case,” he said of the defending Brier champ and his Edmonton team which won the world championships last year while Martin was otherwise occupied winning the Olympic gold medal.

“I'm still enjoying this. I still enjoy hearing the big crowd cheering like we're hearing the cheering here.

“There is nothing better than making a really good shot and hearing a big crowd cheer. When you stop enjoying that, then it's time to quit.”

And that's when he gave the definitive statement about calling it a career at the end of the current Olympic quadrennial.

While he's previously committed to his team through the next Olympics, he's never called it the finish line before.

“We're going to try our best to get to Sochi and that will be my last year,” he said.

No seniors curling. No more curling period.

“Lots of golfing in Palm Springs,” he said.

While win No. 100 was of the free-space-on-the-bingo-card variety, No. 99 was much more iffy. For the longest time there it looked like he might be about to lose his 30th game at the Brier.

Playing giant killer James Grattan, who had defeated Ontario's Glenn Howard in the opening draw, Martin found himself down 3-0 after giving up a steal of two on the second end. He struggled through the fifth end break shooting 63%.

But Martin got it together, ending up at 75% while the rest of the team shot over 90% to score a deuce on the seventh and eighth ends and score an 8-6 win.

Martin was all smiles and fun in the interviews.

“We had a lot of trouble figuring things out,” he said.

“But it was good for the crowd. They had no idea if we'd make or miss our next shot. Either did we.”

It's also good for the crowd because every day they take a seat, they know they're going to watch history.

Even if it's a loss. Right now, especially if it's a loss.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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